Charlie Appleby and Andre Fabre on their Craven contenders

The ebbs and flows that certain races in the Pattern undergo is well illustrated by the return to fashion of the bet365 Craven Stakes (3.35), which lost its pre-eminent role as a prep for the 2,000 Guineas around the turn of the millennium, as Aidan O'Brien and others preferred to head to the colts' Classic without a run in public. 

Charlie Appleby has done more than most to rehabilitate the Group 3, having saddled three winners since he first tested the water in 2018 with subsequent Derby hero Masar. 

Godolphin would previously have only just been flying horses back from Dubai at the beginning of Craven week, but the switch back to wintering many of their Classic prospects in Newmarket has made the Craven Stakes a key part of Appleby's planning, and Native Approach is the chosen candidate to extend his trainer's excellent recent record.

Appleby's three Craven winners had all won at Group level at two – indeed his 2021 champion juvenile Native Trail made a winning reappearance at odds of 1-4 here two years ago – and all but Zazouski (fifth in 2019 off the back of a sole all-weather success) had contested a juvenile Group 1. 

Native Approach does not have that top-level experience from last year, having only made his debut on the Kempton Polytrack in January, before breaking his maiden back at the same venue in stylish fashion on Valentine's Day.

“We have been very happy with how Native Approach has progressed physically since winning his maiden," said Appleby. "It’s his first start in Pattern company, but he has pleased us at home and with what he has achieved on the racetrack so far. We are hopefully going to discover where we will be pitching him for the rest of the season.”

A long-striding son of the speedy Too Darn Hot and a mare who won at Listed level over a mile, Native Approach is once again equipped with a hood and William Buick will hope he can take a lead on what will be the colt's turf debut. 

Fabre seeks first Craven success since 1998 with classy Alcantor

Andre Fabre has never hidden his admiration for Newmarket and, given the Rowley Mile has remained several notches drier on the GoingStick than any of the Parisian tracks during this damp start to the season, the presence of Alcantor in the Craven can be taken at least in part as a quest for better ground, given he does not hold a 2,000 Guineas entry.  

The 31-times champion of France, who last won this contest with Xaar back in 1998, had a particularly strong crop of two-year-olds last year, and there may also be an element of trying to keep a few of them apart for as long as possible at play

That said, Alcantor was the top-rated juvenile colt in France for 2023, carrying an official mark of 112 thanks to his narrow defeat to Sunway in the Group 1 Criterium International. The son of New Bay also boasts a straightforward Group 3 success in the Prix Thomas Bryon. 

Fabre said: "He’s done well and he’s had no setbacks, he’s worked uninterrupted the last two months so I’m happy with his condition. Whether he’s good enough we’ll soon have an answer. He’s going for the ground and, hopefully, a decent pace."

What they say

Aidan O'Brien, trainer of Cambridge
He seems in good form but we really do think he'll stay a lot further than this. We're just hoping he runs a nice race and we can look forward to the rest of the season with him.

John Gosden, joint-trainer of Eben Shaddad
He's ready for his first start of the year after some nice work on both turf and the all-weather, but whatever he does he'll improve from it going forward.

Richard Hannon, trainer of Haatem
It’s always been the plan to have a crack at the Guineas and we’ll know more if he turns out to be a genuine contender after this. His two-year-old form is very strong and, on homework, he seems to have trained on. The step up in trip is an unknown, but I think he’ll get it. If he doesn’t we can always drop back.

Going update

Good ground is expected for the final day of the bet365 Craven meeting at Newmarket with around 2mm of rain forecast to fall at the track.

Andrew Morris, Newmarket’s head of racing and clerk of the course, said the rain was likely to keep conditions the same, with the going description only changing if the showers missed the course.

He said: “It’s still good ground. The jockeys are feeling that it’s coming up on the quicker side of that now. As reported, it’s riding a little bit loose and they’re kicking the top off. Some showers are forecast before racing tomorrow and they might bring two millimetres.

“If we get that then it’ll stay good ground, if not then it’ll be good to firm. It’s dry tomorrow with any showers forecast for after racing.”